Thursday, March 31, 2011

District 150 BOE Candidates

My work schedule being what it is, I have not been able to attend the various forums for the candidates, relying instead on media coverage and the opinions posted on the various blogs for information. My thanks to C. J., Dennis, Emerge, Vonster, Eye in the Sky, and many others for their concise and credible reporting. Also thank you to John Sharp of the Journal Star for his unbiased views. In an age when journalism tends to follow the crowd of mudslingers and hype, John's reporting has been exceptionally well balanced and fair to all the candidates.

Just had the opportunity to view the video coverage of the District 150 BOE candidates, and I have to say that hearing their responses to the questions did not change my opinions of the candidates from before. In District #2, the clear choice is Wolfmeyer. God love Mike Mitchell, I know his heart is in the right place and he wants to make a difference, but I just don't see him being able to turn the District around or get them on track.

In District #3, the choice is not as clear. Rick Cloyd and Janice Deissler are both viable candidates with their own qualities. Rick is an Administrator and an advocate for empowering children through programs like ELITE and CHOICES (both of which I am also an advocate for), but he has no formal background in education. Janice is a skilled and well-established member of the education community in Peoria, having taught many years in the district, and has some administration experience as well. Both are passionate about the children, and passionate about District 150. Since I have to pick one, I guess my question that never got asked (at least not by me) is why the four candidates for District #3 are all write-in candidates, is a little moot at this point. But I would still like to hear the answer. If any of you care to respond, please add it to the comments section below.

I will be reviewing the video of the City Council candidates later this evening when it is posted.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sandberg cannot do it alone!

I've been an attendee at the City Council since January, watching the various consent items come and go, listening carefully to the voices of the council members, and hearing the complaints and comments of the citizens of Peoria who attend on various issues. One thing is clear. There is exactly one voice in the "horseshoe" who is concerned with what the citizens of Peoria care about. Gary Sandberg. He demands explanations for spending our tax money, and has the courage to stand up and oppose the items he believes are wasteful or just plain wrong. He is consistent in his approach, and a man who obviously does his research before speaking.
But Gary cannot do this job on his own. He needs allies on the board who will share his passion for Peoria, and his dedication to the people of this city. He needs allies who will support a basic services platform and listen to the will of the people.
A few weeks ago, the Peoria Journal Star came out to endorse the three most likely candidates to aid Gary in his fight. C. J. Summers, a local e-journalist and outspoken advocate of basic services, Beth Akeson, a local advocate for the Heart of Peoria Plan and Neighborhood Reinvestment, and Chuck Weaver, a local businessman who volunteers his time with local schools and other youth organizations.
If these people are not placed on the council, Peoria can look forward to four more years of the same.
On April 5th, VOTE! Take the time to go by your polling place and make a statement to the city. We will no longer accept this philosophy of "We know what's best for you" from the current administration.
Vote Sandberg, vote Summers, vote Akeson, vote Weaver.
The time to be active is NOW!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wow....I think this is one of the problems that is holding us back.

Bill Lopotko, a local citizen involved with the Transparency in Government project and a concerned citizen in Peoria, has written a letter to the Journal Star that points out one of the major problems we might have with District 150. With Bill's permission, I post it below:

Should we call Superintendent Grenita F. Lathan, Governor? Recently, I discovered that the Peoria School District #150 Superintendent out-earns all 50 of the Governors. With a base salary of $198,000, Lathan makes more base salary than every Governor of the 50 States according to The Book of States 2010.

I was stunned. How have we let this happen? The people of Peoria are principled, hard working citizens. According to Sperling’s The Best Places to Live, the average home cost in our town is $91,380. Coldwell Banker’s website lists our average household income at little more than $46,318.

Our property taxes fund our school district. With property taxes increasing each year, our homes are harder to afford. We are literally renting from our school districts.

Someone needs to tell the Governor.

 Well, Bill, those are fine statistics, but you should hear them in context with a few other facts. Like the fact that those income numbers are primarily above War Memorial drive, when the schools that are taking the hit with this latest reshuffling of students are the ones below War Memorial. Like the fact that closing schools and increasing class sizes will probably lead to a mass exodus of qualified teachers out of the Peoria area, at least out of District 150 schools, particularly below War Memorial. Like the fact that the average teacher in a District 150 School earns about 1/4 of that outrageous salary.

And the worst of this is that Grenita Lathan cannot be blamed for a bit of this. I sincerely believe the woman is a very intelligent, very dedicated person who is simply trying to do a job. Unfortunately, she is not fulfilling the duties of her job, since we are still experiencing a rapid decline in our schools. Partially, of course, because of the outrageous salaries being paid to civil servants.

Gee, what's next? A City Manager with no experience running a city for an outrageous amount of money? Oh yeah, we already have one of those.

Election time is coming up, folks, and the basic services platform is the only one we can afford to support. C. J. Summers, Beth Akeson, and Chuck Weaver have all been endorsed by the Peoria Journal Star, as well as some very astute bloggers and some local organizations as well. We need Gary Sandberg re-elected, and for the fifth seat, lets hope that either Jim Stowell, who left the BOE to run for City Council, or George Azouri, admittedly wet behind the ears, but not a part of the machine, are elected. We need people on that council who will at least try to listen to the people and Take Back Peoria.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

No poor old seniors at Sheridan and War Memorial - The City Gets its TIF

C. J. Summers of the Chronicle did a live blog from home of the council meeting tonight, so rather than repeat his excellent reporting, I'll just give you the highlights of what I heard.

You got to hand it to Barbara Van Auken. When the lady wants to give a speech, she can really give a speech. Doesn't even have to be based in facts. She knows how to form sentences and syllables so well, that you end up agreeing with her even when you know she is flat wrong. Her impassioned speech was about the Senior Housing project that would have been constructed at the corner of Sheridan and War Memorial. Her reasons were that 1) the neighbors didn't want it, 2) the zoning was wrong, 3) the cut through traffic would increase, and 4) the fire trucks and ambulances couldn't get through if the traffic was increased on Sheridan due to that Senior Housing. Zoning can, of course, be changed. The location would be across the street from the current Buehler Home, a residence for seniors, which doesn't seem to be prohibitive in traffic situations. Cut through Traffic? To where? The streets in that area are dead ends and cul de sacs, with not a lot of ways to cut through to anywhere except the residences of the white families in the area. And of course, no one wants to see the property values of those $100,000+ homes go to pot. I also noticed that the gallery of observers and citizens who were there to observe and potentially speak out against the issue (albeit they never got the opportunity) were white. And like the good citizens they are, they promptly left after they were assured that there would not be a senior residence at the location. Guess if you live in an area with $100,000 homes that are primarily populated by white people, "the neighbors don't want it" is sufficient reason to kill the project. Still not quite sure where Barbara is getting the Diverse part of her description of the neighborhood, but it sure did sound good.

Now one item caught my eye on the consent agenda, the one about $17,000+ for Police Duty Ammunition, with an additional $3,000+ for .45 caliber ammunition. I have no problem with the $13,000+ for Police Range ammo. Hey, I think all officers should practice Gun Control (hitting what you aim at). But $17,000+ for Duty Ammo? Exactly how many major gun battles have taken place in Peoria this last year? Folks, it's not like these things have expiration dates. When I was in the Navy, I could draw several hundred rounds each year for practice, and most of the boxes they handed us were from WWII manufacture. And they worked just fine. Not quite sure why they need to replace working ammo unless it is being expended.

I, of course, had to make a trip to my chiropractor after watching Dave Kinney do a 180 degree turn on the TIF. If you will recall, when the January 22nd council meeting took place, Dave and the Superintendent of Schools stood at the podium and begged the Council not to do the TIF because the frozen funds would hurt the already bleeding District 150 school budget. Ah, but the later agenda of the Council made clear the reason for the reversal. 10% of the TIF money will be set aside for Vocational Training to be done at the old Woodruff High School facility, which will now also house the kids on suspension from their home schools (read discipline problems). Gee, the price of cooperation is getting pretty cheap these days. 10% of an expected $95 million dollars over the next 23 years. About $434,000 a year. Now I am not quite sure what kind of vocational training they had in mind, but since the example made by one speaker, Wozniak, was a young person becoming a CNA (sheet changer, bedpan cleaner, etc.), this is certainly an OSF inspired idea to get 150 off their back and create a permanent underclass of "grunts" to do their (if you'll excuse the pun) shit work. No mention of automotive training or basic shop skills was made, and at that price, how could you? Tools, equipment, teachers who could actually teach auto mechanics are expensive, and these days require college level skills and classes. Same thing with shop classes. CNC systems are expensive, folks, ask the people at Caterpillar, who also now have a substantial presence at ICC. Oops, there we go again with the college level skills. So what kinds of vocations will they teach?

Riggenbach also made numerous mention of the meetings that had been held regarding the EVGC TIF. Let's see, there were two meetings that were entitled "TIF 101's" that were not meetings at all, but lessons on how the residential TIFs in two other Illinois cities worked (both of which are in financial straits, by the way). Then there was the last meeting, a "planning session" hosted by Ross Black where a white board was laid out with various options (one from column A, one from column B) to attempt to formulate a plan. But a plan was never agreed upon, even though the council voted today to create a plan. And while the other meetings were actual meetings to discuss why we should have a TIF at all, there were never any more than 40 or 50 people at these meetings. And most of those people were against the idea of the TIF.  But then again, we are talking about an area where the homes are assessed at between $35 to 60K, and the population is very diverse (Blacks, Whites, and Hispanics all live in the East Bluff). So I guess "the neighbors don't want it" doesn't apply if you come from an area where the average mean income is $36,009.50.

Notable attendees were George Azouri (who left with the crowd after the council killed the Senior Residence) and Chuck Weaver, who arrived a bit late but stayed for the end of the meeting. Obviously C. J. was listening as well. Also notable was the only Nay vote for the items regarding the TIF, Gary Sandberg.

Hope everyone is paying attention when April 5th rolls around.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Some tidbits of note

First of all, a bit of news about something near and dear, mainly my job. As of the close of business today, Neil Norton Cadillac (where something GOOD is going to happen to You!) is no more. We will operate at the Neil Norton site until April 1st, when the lot will be closed by the Uftring group for renovations. Cadillacs will be added to the line at the Jim McComb facility, until the renovations are completed. Then the lot will reopen as Uftring Cadillac Chevrolet. Some familiar faces will remain, others will not, but the level of Cadillac service and sales will not be impaired. As a matter of fact, this should be a good move for all.

C. J. has been hard at work at the Peoria Chronicle, providing some maps on growth in Peoria over the last 10 years. His article shows the necessity of preserving and reclaiming our older, urban neighborhoods. We simply cannot continue to expand in all directions [mostly North] and allow people to build their own communities in the suburbs. We need to restore our bluffs and make them safe for our children. We need a tax base that will support our schools, and we certainly need to restore our infrastructure. Basic services is the campaign issue at hand, folks, and we need to elect people who will support and develop our vision of the future in that direction.

Incidentally, I have been working with Matt Woodmancy, who is going to try to get the Democratic nomination to run against Aaron Schock in the next Congressional election. He is a careful thinker, a native Central Illinoian and merits your consideration. There is a [scheduled] rally in Liberty Park on April 15th in the afternoon [6 to 8 pm] to raise awareness to the issues and introduce himself to the local citizens. You might want to look into it.

Also, can't emphasize enough how important this Transparency in Government program will be to helping candidates like C.J., Beth, and Chuck the information from an informed constituency. Lakeview Museum, April 21st, 6 pm. My previous blog gives all the details.

And last, but certainly not least, wasn't today a lovely day?!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Quick note of Congratulations and notification of Transparency in Government meeting.

Well, how about that? The Peoria Journal Star did their research and concluded what others and I have been telling you for a couple of weeks now. C. J. Summers, Beth Akeson, and Chuck Weaver have all gotten endorsements from the Journal Star, while Spain and Turner are the people to remove. Rather than repeat their already informative and well-researched articles, which are available in today's paper as well as at, I'll just add my recommendations for all three candidates as people who have exceptional skills and a real desire to return to a constituent based vision for Peoria. We need council members who will consider the desires of the citizens first, not empire builders with some esoteric vision of what the future could be. We need to get our crime problems solved, rebuild our infrastructure, and get our school district back on track before we worry about other problems. We also need to listen to the citizens who want the council to respond accordingly when an overwhelming number of citizens say NO to sweetheart deals, back room politics, and outright cronyism. We need fresh blood and fresh ideas to help Councilman Sandberg on the council.

Transparency in Government

Now that the rant is out of my system, another announcement for you all. Brian Costin of the Illinois Policy Institute will be the guest speaker at the monthly Peoria 9/12 Project on Thursday, April 21st at 6 p.m.. Doors will open at 5:30 and the meeting will begin at 6 p.m. The subject of the talk centers around making local government transparent to the voters and citizens.
A short biography of Brian Costin

Brian Costin joined the Illinois Policy Institute in January of 2010.  Previously, he worked for the 
Heartland Institute as assistant director of government relations. Brian has been active in the Institute’s Liberty Leaders project, which he now leads, and founded the Schaumburg Freedom Coalition, where he won the 2010 Government Watchdog Award from the Sam Adams Alliance for his work exposing government waste & fraud in his hometown of Schaumburg.
Brian graduated with distinction from North Park University where he received a Master in Management of Nonprofit Administration. While attending North Park University, Brian worked for UPS in operations management and business development. As an undergraduate at Illinois State University, Brian completed a Bachelors of Science degree, double majoring in Economics and Politics & Governance
Brian’s work has earned coverage from national and state media outlets, such as the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald, and Chicago Tonight.  He is a regular guest on the nationally syndicated television show First Business and the Mornings with Ray Hanania radio show. 
Bill Lopotko and I will be on hand to accept volunteer applications for learning more about how you can be involved in helping to create a more easily accessible government here in Peoria.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Side notes and circumstances

Okay, a quick apology to everyone for the cancellation of the 9/12 Project Meet the Candidates event this last Wednesday. I know quite a few people had planned to attend, but apparently Jody did not have enough faith in Jenny Keller being able to pull this off by herself. I had an emergency at work (only two salesmen, and the other one called in sick) and had to pull out as a moderator, but I think Jenny would have done a splendid job, especially with our guest moderator, John Sharp of the Journal Star.

Now I have recently been working with Bill Lopotko of the 9/12 Project to investigate the possibility of forming a bi-partisan committee for Transparency in Government. This LINK is to an article explaining the key points of Transparency, and how they should allow the common citizen to access their representatives.

I sent this link via email to both the incumbents on the City Council, and the Candidates for the various positions being elected in April. As of this writing, several of the candidates have responded with positive remarks, with the notable exception of Chuck Weaver, who explained that he would look at it when he had time after the election. Since the Candidates have clearly stated that Transparency is an issue that they all support, it might be nice if they know what they are supporting. Apparently, Chuck either understands the principles already? Hmmm. Hope so.

As to the East Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services, I spent a couple of hours last night with Rose Sullivan and Malita King, two outspoken advocates for the East Bluff and former members of the EBNHS Board, as well as active past members of local neighborhood associations. I left that meeting with a wealth of information that I am still perusing, so right now I am still trying to discover how the EBNHS became the mega drain on taxpayer dollars that it is today. More on this later, but one thing did pop into my head. Since we are already paying a Special Service Area tax to the city to support the EBNHS, why should we be taxed a second time for a TIF that will, essentially, duplicate this effort? Just a thought thrown out there. Anyone care to answer?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

East Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc. - A Not For Profit Agency?

About ten years ago, my wife looked into a low-interest loan from the EBNHS, Inc. We applied and received a loan for $20,000.00 at 2% in order to do upgrades to our home, a new roof, new siding, replacement windows, and the rebuilding of the garage.
At the February meeting of the EBNHS, Inc. I asked the board members how many loans they had made in the last two years. Their answer? None.

So I started to dig around a bit. Seems the EBNHS, Inc. has changed their focus from their original intent. In the Articles of Incorporation dated March 5, 1986, the purpose of the EBNHS, Inc. was "To combat community deterioration and to secure decent, safe, and sanitary housing, community facilities and other related facilities, services, and conditions economic, social or otherwise, conducive to the progress and general welfare of the community by facilitating the rehabilitation of and the improvement to the East Bluff Areas of the City of Peoria:

(1) By the dissemination of information to the neighborhood concerning housing and community projects;

(2) By encouraging the participation of residents and businesses of the neighborhood in the formulation and implementation of improvement plans;

(3) By promoting the cooperation and coordination of such residents and businesses with public agencies, private agencies, private industries and such other entities as are available to aid in the purposes of the organization; and

(4) By assisting in the implementation of the improvement plans."

According to the By Laws of the Current EBNHS, Inc. approved on September 24, 2009, the purpose of the organization is now:

"to renew pride, restore confidence, promote reinvestment, and revitalize the EBNHS neighborhoods through the efforts of local residents acting in concert with financial institutions, corporate enterprise and the business community, foundations, and local government. These services may be extended to areas beyond the EBNHS' service area at the Board's discretion."

Now wait a minute! The funds that the EBNHS receives from the City of Peoria are collected from the East Bluff through a special services tax. So who are they to decide to send the money out of the area? After all, then intent of that money is, according to the original purposes, to serve the East Bluff. In fact, in the city ordinance that created the Special Service Area (Ordinance No. 11,939 dated April 18th, 1989 and signed by then Mayor James Maloof), the clear intention of these funds is to continue the work of the EBNHS, as follows:

I) providing low interest loans (1/2% to 9%) through the administration of a $300,000 dollar revolving loan fund

II) neighborhood paint-up program which provided paint for 215 homes in the East Bluff

III) neighborhood landscaping efforts

IV) encouragement of home ownership through one half million dollars in low interest mortgages secured through IHDA

V) extended code enforcement efforts through an advocacy role with the existing city code enforcement efforts

VI) neighborhood planning, through liaison with city departments and committees.

Seems the EBNHS has gone far afield of the concept held by the original framers. According to their 2011 Budget proposal, they will spend a total of $88,195.00, of which $43,191.00 will be spent on salaries and a 12% fringe benefits package. This means that 48% of their budget will be spent on salaries.

Is this upsetting? The original Articles of Incorporation show how far afield this organization has gone. They state:

"The Corporation [EBNHS] is irrevocably dedicated to and operated exclusively for non-profit purposes; and no part of the income or assets of the Corporation shall be distributed to nor inure to the benefit of its Members, Directors, Officers, or any other individual, except that the Corporation shall be authorized and empowered to pay reasonable compensation for services rendered to make payments and distributions in furtherance of the purposes set forth in this article; such purposes shall include the making of distributions to organizations that qualify as exempt organizations under Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 (or the corresponding provision of any future United States Internal Revenue Law).

Now I understand that by laws can be changed due to circumstance, like having 13 directors and only half of them required to be residents of the East Bluff. I can even understand having a part time director and secretary, and a loan officer, and paying them some reasonable compensation for their time, as long as they are not in the categories listed above. But what I fail to understand is how this board has decided that becoming landlords for rental properties or paying out 48% of their annual budget falls within the realm of their powers or the intentions of the original framers of this organization.

Since this Special Service Area tax is for the purposes already contained in the EVGC TIF proposal, why should we continue to fund an organization with taxpayer money when additional funds will be collected by the TIF to do the exact same work? Especially an organization that for the last two years, and possibly more, has not accomplished its stated goals.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The TIF and the City

John Sharp has written an excellent piece in the Journal Star about the upcoming East Valley Growth Cell TIF that will soon be enacted for the East Bluff and Near North Side. While his article is balanced and tries to include both sides of the argument, there is an interesting side note to the entire affair.

Now the TIF funds are at the mercy and discretion of the City Council, once it is enacted. So, since the consensus appears to agree that it will go through despite objections of residents like myself, the question really becomes WHO do I want holding the checkbook? Despite the protestations of Timothy Riggenbach, who has publicly stated he will fight the disbursement of EVGC TIF funds to the MidTown Plaza TIF, the funds generated by the TIF (Taxpayer Dollars) can be maneuvered by the City Council to other TIF areas. And while the last meeting of the TIF Advisory Committee was a show designed to give the illusion of community involvement, the charter of that Advisory Committee clearly states that they are strictly that, an advisory committee, who's information, recommendations, and findings can be disregarded in part or entirely. There is not regulation or law that prevents the City Council from doing whatever they want to do, in spite of the desires or objections of the homeowners.

Personally, I think the incumbents have lost sight of their purpose and their calling. They are not there to be Empire Builders or Dictators, but Servants of the People. We are the ones who should be telling them what we want done, how we want it done, and what we think should be the direction of our city.

Gary Sandberg, C.J. Summers, and Beth Akeson appear to have this message in their platforms. The other candidates...well, not too sure. Still checking and I will be listening very carefully on Wednesday, March 16th when we have them on the Dais at the Peoria Theater starting at 6 p.m. Will you?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Open Question to the Candidates

Now I know you all will have some stock answers for what I am about to ask, since I am sure you have heard the question at least nine or ten times before by now. But I am asking you to put something in print, something tangible that can be referred back to. "On [date] in the blog Take Back Peoria, you said...." I am challenging you to be accountable for your statement. Are you ready?

In the past two months, the City Council of Peoria has passed several items that have received harsh criticism from the constituency, and appear on the surface to directly benefit OSF. OSF has not been forthcoming as to their interest in the EVGC TIF, yet the current council is poised to vote on this issue on March 22nd, prior to the election of the new council members. Given the lack of transparency to date of this project, and the questionable nature of the benefits to the homeowners of the East Bluff who will bear the majority of the tax burden for this project, do you believe this project should be deferred until after the elections to allow the new council members to determine if it will coincide with their agenda for the city?

Please place your comments in the Comments section below.

What are the questions we should be asking?

" What I am looking for in a candidate is public safety first, revitalizing neighborhoods second, stopping private investment with taxpayers dollars, third, and creating a downtown that has something to offer to citizens of Peoria, fourth." Donald Cummings, in a response to my Editorial Mind Over Matter in the Peoria Chronicle.

I think Donald has hit the nail on the head in this comment. Basic Services has been the agenda we need in Peoria, instead of this current administration of Empire Builders.

Public Safety has got to be the first and foremost concern of any incoming Council person, and should be the main concern of the incumbent council. Crime rates in the entire city have grown, particularly in the East Bluff area where the proposed TIF project will supposedly "redevelop and revitalize" the area. As has been said by others, new sidewalks, street lamps, and flower boxes will not attract businesses or home buyers into the area. Only a concerted effort that reduces risk to residents will do that. It is a precursor to the second and third items in Don's list, Revitalizing Neighborhoods and Stopping private investment with taxpayer dollars. The failed MidTown Plaza TIF should be enough to tell the council that the EVGC TIF WILL NOT WORK unless the first concern is met. Only after these concerns have been met should the City Council be concerned with building a "revitalized" downtown.

With this in mind, I have to look at the candidates with a critical eye. Gary Sandberg, C. J. Summers, and Beth Akeson are the three that come to mind who have openly espoused Basic Services. An increased police force is the most important concern for many of us, but it doesn't stop there. We need a responsive, interactive police force that works with neighborhood groups to provide a continuing dialog between residents and police. In order to do this, we need more police officers who are willing to get out of their cars and be approachable to the citizens of the community.

Ryan Spain has, in the past, chosen to support the efforts of the current council in placing the cart before the horse. Councilman Turner has openly told constituents in council chambers that he will vote his conscience and not the opinions of his constituents. Neither of these candidates appear to support the agenda that Don espouses.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

AFSCME and the City of Peoria

Since my wife is a member of AFSCME, there is no doubt what side of this debate I come down on. Here is the link to the latest news.

First Wisconsin, next the nation?


Opinions are dangerous things, to be sure.

A recent friend who also blogs declined to put an article of mine on his space because the article compared a certain group to the infamous Nazis, citing Godwin's Law which states " that overuse of Nazi and Hitler comparisons should be avoided, because it robs the valid comparisons of their impact.".

Godwin's Law is a humorous anecdote, not a journalistic regulation. Basically it states that the longer a Blog argument continues, the more likely it is for someone to drag the Nazis or Adolf into it. True, I am sure. But it does not invalidate the comparison when the actions reflect a National Socialist attitude from the body regarding decisions being made in spite of the will of the people.

The entire point of the article was "FOR THEIR OWN GOOD". The Nazi's, the Government of South Africa, the Government of the United States, and even the Government of Idi Amin have all been guilty of taking the stance that they know more than the people. Anytime a government is allowed to make decisions contrary to the will of the governed, it is the first step on that infamous "slippery slope" that leads to a totalitarian government.

I was actually considering letting this go, since it was easy enough to compare the recent actions of the Peoria City Council to actions of Segregation, Apartheid, and the interment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II. But the recently published editorial by Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald (Our ideals make America what it is, warts and all, Peoria Journal Star, March 9th, 2011) spoke to me.

Freedom of Speech, especially political speech, was the first right given in the Bill of Rights for a reason. Suppression and repression of statements contrary to the will of those in power is the most powerful tool available to a despotic regime. Thank God that in this country, such suppression is not allowed.

Opening Comments

Like any good writer, I should start with a few comments about what, exactly, I am trying to accomplish. So to keep it simple, I have a couple of items on the current agenda:

A) to hold the city council accountable for their flagrant disregard for the citizens of Peoria. The incumbent council, with the sole exception of Mr. Gary Sandberg, has consistently ignored the voice of the voting public in recent decisions concerning Big Al's, the East Village Growth Cell TIF project, and several other decisions. While I will give them credit for refusing a liquor license to the proprietor of Brown Bag video, I have to say that their decision not only to grant Big Al's to move to a location adjacent to the CityLink Bus Station, the Myah's Day Care center, and the Civic Center Box Office, but to also sell the property for less than it took the city to develop it in the first place smacks of sweetheart deals under the counter and cronyism.

B) to rally the blog reading crowd to spread the word and take to the streets in favor of replacing the current council members who are up for re-election with the more viable and responsive candidates who are seeking the position. C. J. Summers, Beth Akeson, and George Azouri are among my favorites, and I am still looking at Chuck Weaver and Charles Grayeb, but frankly anyone who is honestly prepared to work for the citizens of this city instead of becoming a "rubber stamp" for the Ardis agenda will be better than what we have now.

I am sure I will find other things to write about as time goes by, but for now these will do.

It's time to Take Back Peoria, People.